Environmental assessment for regional strategies revocation
Planning Minister Bob Neill told the Commons that the Government has decided to carry out an environmental assessment of the revocation of the regional strategies.
He told MPs that this was being undertaken “on a voluntary basis. We consider that it would be useful to assess whether there are any significant environmental effects of revoking each regional strategy”.
He added: “We intend to compile an environmental report for each region and to consult on it in line with the process laid down in the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.
“Local authorities and others should find this helpful in identifying issues relevant to their areas and policies or initiatives in the regional strategies which are no longer in effect, and it should also help them decide how to proceed with preparing or reviewing their own plans”.
The minister said: “This process of environmental assessment will be carried out during the passage of the Localism Bill through Parliament. Subject to Royal Assent, the revocation of each individual regional strategy will be commenced after the assessment process has been completed.”
Pledge on unauthorised development
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has confirmed the Government plans to increase the powers of local authorities to tackle unauthorised development, a particular issue as far as Gypsy and Traveler pitches are concerned. He also told MPs that ministers would be consulting on s106 agreements shortly.
He highlighted four areas where the unauthorised development regime would be strengthened: “We are going to deal with the question of concealed buildings and those who seek to hide a dwelling behind a construction; we will be increasing the penalties; we are going to ensure that people can appeal either for an enforcement order or a retrospective planning application, not both; and we are going to increase the ability to deal with fly-posting.”
Geographic information moves
The first chairman of a new high-level group to oversee and provide advice to Government on the public sector's requirements for geographic Information, and how it should be sourced, has been appointed.
Sir Ian Magee became chair of the Geographic Information Group on 1 April 2011. The group will provide a high level of independence and expertise for specifying Government customer requirements for geographic information, drawing on views and experience of users across the public sector, and from the wider industry.
A key function of the new Group is to act on behalf of all members of the new Public Sector Mapping Agreement which launched on 1 April 2011. The Agreement provides the entire public sector in England and Wales with access to Ordnance Survey data under a single agreement for the first time, all for free at the point of use.
This new agreement includes more than 750 local and central government and NHS organisations with provision for thousands more to join. It will result in significant cost savings for the public sector, greater data sharing and widens access to geographical information.
Hospital redevelopment mooted
Two planning applications have been submitted to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to replace the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City with a new hospital and homes.
The outline applications were lodged by consultancy Barton Willmore on behalf of public-private organisation Assemble Community Partnership.
The proposals involve the demolition of the existing 350-bed hospital and associated buildings and its replacement with a new Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, a separate healthcare facility, an extension to an existing hospice and up to 202 homes on the 8.5ha site.
High speed rail plans challenge
Environmental groups have formed an alliance calling on the Government to reconsider its approach to a London-to-Birmingham high-speed rail line.
This coalition, which includes the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Greenpeace, says there has been too little consultation on the HS2 scheme.
The coalition has drawn up a charter setting out four principles "for doing High Speed Rail well".
The Charter calls for a national transport strategy, better future-proofing of big transport proposals, effective public participation and a more strategic approach to minimising adverse impacts.
Waste water policy changes urged by MPs
A Commons committee has urged ministers to change its draft National Policy Statement (NPS) on Waste Water after saying that the current guidance was short on detail and lacked clear guidance about how to judge the impacts of large-scale projects like Thames Water’s Thames Tideway Tunnel. That call came in a report from the all-party Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
Design review reviewed
The Design Council has launched a national consultation on the future of the design review and support activities undertaken by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). The announcement came as the Design Council officially merged with CABE and adopts its independent charitable status.
The consultation, which will run from April to June, will assess how best to drive high-quality design at the heart of regeneration, renewal and community planning. It will inform a root and branch review of CABE services, which will include recommendations of new market models for design reviews and design support that meets the needs of the public and communities in the UK.
The review will be authored by Peter Bishop, visiting professor in Architecture and the Built Environment at Nottingham Trent University and until recently the group director of design, development and environment at the London Development Agency.
His report is scheduled to be published by late summer 2011.
Parish s106 change
Communities Minister Greg Clark has confirmed that that there will be greater flexibility for parish councils to benefit from s106 payments.
During oral questions in Parliament he explained that the Government was keen to ensure that local communities benefit directly from development. He said: “We intend to retain section 106 agreements in a scaled-back form, alongside the community infrastructure levy, to fund local infrastructure and community facilities.”
He added: “The Localism Bill centres on giving greater discretion to local communities to use the funds that come with developments so that they can invest in infrastructure locally. We know that one of the sources of opposition to development is people's reasonable fear that they will not get the infrastructure that the development requires. We are changing that through the Bill.”
Waste planning advice changed
Government chief planner Steve Quartermain has written to planning authorities reminding them of an update to Planning Policy Statement 10: Planning for sustainable waste management to ensure it incorporates the new waste hierarchy set out in the latest EC Waste framework Directive (2008/98/EC).
The revised directive seeks to increase the use of waste as a resource (e.g. for fuel) and to place greater emphasis on the prevention and recycling of waste, while protecting human health and the environment. It includes a new waste hierarchy designed to be a material consideration in determining individual planning applications.
Planning Policy Statement 10 (PPS10) sets out the Government's policy to be taken into account by waste planning authorities and forms part of the national waste management plan for the UK.
This amended version of the PPS replaces Planning Policy Guidance 10: Planning and Waste Management (PPG10) published in 1999 and an earlier edition of PPS10 published on 21 July 2005.
Green area designations slippage
The Department for Community and Local Government’s latest update on its structural reforms has highlighted that work on a new designation to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities is behind schedule. This was originally due to be complete by the end of March 2011.
Plans to improve the setting of Stonehenge which include the removal of the current visitor facilities are back on track following a Government initiative to help English Heritage secure a funding mix to achieve the project.
In a move to cut red tape, Heritage Minister John Penrose has confirmed that English Heritage will be allowed to access £2m of historic reserves raised from philanthropic sources.
In a separate development, Roads Minister Mike Penning has agreed funding of around £3.5m for improvements to Highways Agency roads close to Stonehenge, subject to the completion of statutory processes.
He has also confirmed the go-ahead of the Stonehenge improvements. This will provide increased capacity on a key roundabout near the site of the new visitor centre.
Simon Thurley chief executive of English Heritage said: “These are crucial steps which bring closer the transformation of the currently blighted Stonehenge landscape. We now need to secure the last permissions and raise the final elements of funding. I am confident that we will be able to do both in time to start work next year.”
New on-line housing engagement tool
Housing charity Shelter has launched a free online resource to support local authority officers and house builders in achieving more effective community engagement in housing development.
This initiative, ‘Housing Insights for Communities’, provides an insight into the attitudes and concerns of different local communities to housing development.
Users of the resource can uncover details about specific demographic groups - down to local and ward level - to find out the attitudes toward house building in their local area. It also gives information about the likelihood of objection to house building.
In addition, the resource provides guidance on the most effective communication channels and messages to reach specific groups, providing a readymade communications plan to tackle housing opposition.
More Croydon towers
Menta, the urban regeneration company, has submitted a planning application to the London Borough of Croydon for the redevelopment of its sites in Cherry Orchard Road, adjacent to East Croydon Station.
The proposals for a major mixed-use scheme designed by architects Make, includes plans for nearly 500 homes in two residential towers, one 53-storeys high, as well as shops, community facilities, small business units and a 165-bed four-star ‘boutique’ hotel.
Mosque hearing starts
A public inquiry has started into plans for a mosque next to Sandhurst, the military academy.
The scheme involves proposals to demolish a Victorian school building in a Conservation Area and replace it with a £3m domed mosque refused permission by Surrey Heath Borough Council.
Hay home brought down to earth
The property developer who tried to outwit planners and the planning system by disguising a luxury home as a hay barn has lost his long legal battle for a certificate of lawfulness which would have meant the development was immune from enforcement.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council can take action over the three-bedroomed house built in a Green Belt location near Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.
Alan Beesley was granted permission in 2001 to build a barn for agricultural use but fitted it out as a luxury home.
Tidal power go-ahead
Energy secretary Chris Huhne has given the green light to an innovative tidal power scheme planned to generate green power from the Ramsey Sound, off Pembrokeshire.
Tidal Energy Ltd's 1.2 MW 'Deltastream' device is designed to provide enough electricty to meet the needs of 1,000 homes.
7 April 2011